Marvel's 2011 crossover event began this week with Fear Itself #1, written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger and colorist Laura Martin.
It is a very compelling prologue to what looks like it will be a very enjoyable crossover, perhaps one of the all-time greats, really.*
The basic gist of this crossover is that the "big bad" feeds off and incites fear, which can be quite powerful when you think of all the fear that exists in the world. Working "real life" problems into a superhero comic, though, is a very tricky subject. I mean, how much is too much? When do you get to the point of absurdity where the Radioactive Man is in Japan helping to fix the Fukushim nuclear power plant?
So it was very impressive to me how well Matt Fraction was able to walk the tightrope in that regard. Throw in enough "real life" stuff that you can relate to the issues in the comic on a realistic basis, but keep it vague enough that you don't cross the aforementioned line of absurdity.
Here's a few sample pages speaking to that point (you also get to marvel at the amazingness that is Stuart Immonen artwork)...
(click on the double-page spread to enlarge)
While the "real life" power of fear is a major aspect of Fraction's work here (allegorically showing us how devastating unchecked fear can be), this is also very much a superhero comic book story, and Fraction has set up the ground rules for what looks to be an enjoyable superhero romp. The idea of basically an evil version of Odin with a series of hammers that will transform seemingly random members of the Marvel Universe into twisted versions of Thor (called "The Worthy")? That's a dynamite idea, and it should make for some really entertaining superhero fights (particularly with Immonen drawing them).
In this issue, we see Odin seemingly turn against his own son, Thor. I enjoyed the way Fraction wrote Thor and Odin in this issue a lot more than his handling of the two characters in his Thor run so far (which gives me a lot of hope for his new Mighty Thor series). The great thing about Odin is that he has been written so differently over the years (and in the Norse myths, as well) that you can basically do whatever you want with him, characterization-wise. The benevolent leader or the Machiavellian schemer - either version works. In this issue, Fraction is going with the latter. Odin's methods might seem strange, but obviously that is the idea - we can't criticize him for his actions when his strange actions are almost certainly THE WHOLE POINT. It is not that he is acting strange, it is WHY is he acting strange? The answer will be revealed during this storyline, I am sure.
Also, Odin versus Thor was such a well-orchestrated fight. Odin "turning off" Mjolnir was incredibly badass.
That fight scene was very important because otherwise, this would have been almost all set-up, so it was good to have that piece of action mixed in. It did seem slightly odd to have this issue be very much a prologue when we already had a book officially called a prologue, but still, this was a very well-told set-up issue with some excellent artwork. This is great start to what promises to be an enjoyable event.
* Most company-wide crossovers are not that good. So while I am complimenting Fear Itself, "perhaps one of the all-time greats" is not necessarily saying a whole lot.